Veterans to carry volleyball early on

By Rhema Rhea

Volleyball heads into the season with starters who are set to begin play.

Following a 19-13 overall record, including a 10-6 record in MAC play, a season ago, the Huskies are returning 10 letter-winners and four starters.

“I think on both ends our team has a basic understanding of what we’re trying to do without us getting too locked into certain things or systems or that kind of stuff,” said head coach Ray Gooden, who is in his 13th year at the helm of the program. “I think our team has a good, general idea of what we’re trying to do offensively and what we’re trying to do defensively. Now, it’s a matter of trying to refine those things and trying to expand them as much as we can throughout the year.”

The Huskies have wrapped up their two-week pre-season camp, which featured team scrimmages and drills to work on the fundamentals of volleyball, which Gooden calls “heart skills.”

“I know that with such a young group we have been trying to hit the basic skills,” Gooden said. “How you pass, how you set, how you serve, so everyone has a set idea of what the fundamentals are and try to compete as much as we can because we want to get as much experience as we can before we start to play matches against other people.”

Junior Alexis “Pookie” Gonzalez, the primary setter for the Huskies, has to be a vocal leader, setting everyone else up on offense.

“I think the freshmen are doing fine connecting with us,” Gonzalez said. “Our team is a fun group of girls; we always bring a lot of energy. … We like to let the freshmen know that we are a hardworking team, but we also like to have fun. You can’t just rely on the six that are on the court; everyone is important.”

Gooden said all 15 women have their unique styles, and he likes where the team is at.

“We’ve had some other players that have been doing some pretty good things so far as well, like sophomore T’ara [‘T-Austin’] Austin. She has been improving a lot since last year, so she will challenge for playing time,” Gooden said. “We also have a solid freshman in Taylor Krage, who has done some positive things for us.

“Emily Paschke, a senior, she has done a real good job coming in a lot more confident and has played really well during the camp. We’ve also got Lauren Zielinski, who has also come in and [has] done a really good job hitting on the right side for us. Seems like we have a solid core, but we also have a lot of depth, as well.”